A hotel replete with . . . something

I can’t resist looking at photos of hotel rooms. So when I came across a post about a cool new boutique hotel in Florida, I went to their website to look at the room photography.

As I visually strolled from one room category to the next, I waited for one particular shot to pop into view. It was a photo featured in the blog post, and it showed a room interior with what looked to be a fairly high-end telescope. It was one of those short, fat telescopes, on a lovely wooden tripod, too—definitely not a kid’s toy.

Since I love, love, love to look at the night sky over the ocean, I wanted to find out if every room came equipped with one of these beauties, or if it was an exclusive feature of one specific room type.

I don’t know if it was the rooms that weren’t spectacular, or the photography, but the photos were slow to respond to my clicks. I’m not typically this impatient when it comes to browsing through hotel websites. But the photos didn’t reveal much, soothes weren’t particularly interesting. When I finally found the photo I was looking for, I was relieved.

As I breezed through the room description, scanning for the word “telescope,” something else stopped me cold.


No, it wasn’t the bidet that threw me. It was the “a.”

In milliseconds, my mind moved through the following thought sequence like a line of dominoes toppling over. It began with “Huh?” and was followed by:

There’s no sentence in the English language that should ever contain the phrase ‘replete with a.’

which lead to:

Can you use ‘replete’ with a collective noun? I don’t think so. But if you could, then ‘replete with a’ is a viable phrase. However, even if ‘bidet’ were a collective noun, the sentence wouldn’t make sense.

and then to:

The blog post said rates at this hotel start at $415 a night, and this is their level of attention to detail?


That was 10 minutes I’ll never get back.

and, finally, to:

Maybe there’s a blog post in this.

I like the idea of an oceanfront hotel room with its own telescope, but not enough to pick up the phone and ask about it. I’m better off saving the $669 I’d spend for one night in that room, and buying my own telescope.

Consumer-me would have gotten as far as “That was 10 minutes I’ll never get back” and then left the site, and that would have been the end of it. I’d have given up on the telescope, the hotel, everything. Something that was compelling enough to make me momentarily consider planning a vacation had just as quickly turned me off.

But writer-me wanted to write this post, so I went back to the site to look up the price of a one-night’s stay in the room pictured. While I was there, I finished reading the description to get the details on the telescope—not even mentioned. Strike two.

I can’t imagine anyone who would bother to read this far would be stymied as to why the phrase “replete with a” turned a potential guest into a missed opportunity for this hotel. But, if you’re the anomaly, here you go.

A final note: If you’re wondering why I didn’t include the photo I talk about in the post, I can’t include it. Or, rather, I won’t. If I include it, I have to credit it, which would force me to identify the hotel, which I don’t want to do. I don’t want to give them or the photographer a hard time over it.

Instead, I’ll offer a plug for the Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa in Palm Beach. While I’ve never stayed there, a quick online search identified this oceanfront hotel as having telescopes available for guest use. And the descriptive copy on their home page is clear and error-free.

Oh, and the view from one of their oceanfront suites? Check it out:

View of the Atlantic from an oceanfront suite at the Jupiter Beach Hotel & Resort

An oceanfront room at the Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa offers quite a view–telescope or not


Ripped from the body copy

I was just reading a post from the blog of a prominent trade publication, and was stopped cold by this sentence:

Lastly, if your archaic brand franchise agreement stipulates a business center, inevitably you will have to decide whether it is time to test your metal.

(Oh, yes he did.)

I count at least three errors, one of which is egregious. One or two others are things I stumbled over that I would definitely word differently, but about which I would have to do some further research to determine if they are truly grammatical errors, or just matters of clarity.

Here’s how I would word the sentence:

If your archaic franchise agreement stipulates the inclusion of a business center, inevitably, you will have to decide if it is time to test your mettle.

Now, I’ll break down my changes.

  1. The egregious: metal/mettle. Since the author isn’t talking about jewelry design or G26-2Tmetalsmithing, I assume he meant “mettle.”
  2. The big: whether/if. Use of the word “whether” in place of “if” is rampant, and incorrect. When you use “whether,” the phrase “or not” must appear somewhere behind it in the sentence, as in the following examples:Whether or not you’re interested in hearing it, I’m going to tell you the truth.

    you like vegetables or not, you should include some in your diet.If the writer had used the phrase to completion, his sentence would have read, “Lastly, if your archaic brand franchise agreement stipulates a business center, inevitably you will have to decide whether or not it is time to test your metal.” Since this option is unnecessarily wordy, it’s better to replace the whole phrase with the one, small word that should have been used in the first place: “if.”
  3. The minor, #1: stipulates. Usage information about the word “stipulates” isn’t easy to find quickly. I did a cursory search, and found some examples that support what I’m about to state, but no clear, easy-to-understand rule. I’m sure it exists; I just didn’t feel like spending any more time searching for it. But here’s my thought process.It sounds strange to me to use the word as the writer did, which is “stipulate [an object].” I think you can stipulate a behavior, but not a thing. For example, you can stipulate in a contract that X be done, or that X be present in your dressing room (because you’re a renowned rock diva, and you get to stipulate such things). So, while you can stipulate that your dressing room be stocked with pink lemonade, you can’t stipulate pink lemonade. You’re stipulating the stocking of the lemonade in the room; stipulating that lemonade be in the room when you arrive.

    In the writer’s sentence, what he means to convey is that the franchise agreement may stipulate the behavior, or act, of creating a space somewhere on hotel property to be designated as a business center (a.k.a. the inclusion of a business center). Stating so outright is far more clear. And if there is a hard-and-fast grammar rule somewhere that does allow for the writer’s usage, then grammar be damned. Clarity should always trump grammar.

  4. The minor, #2: lastly. First, since the post doesn’t include a reference to a “first” point, there’s no reason to reference a “last” either. Second, for the same reason you wouldn’t say “firstly,” you should’t use “lastly.” It may be appropriate in more formal writing (I’d have to look that one up), but definitely not in a blog post, or anywhere online.

One change I made that I didn’t count among the errors was the removal of the word “brand.” It’s just unnecessary. If any franchisors exist who have titled their franchise agreements “Brand Franchise Agreement,” they have done so in error. As a franchisee, you enter into an agreement with the franchisor, not the brand. The brand is not an entity; therefore, it can’t enter into any type of relationship. The franchise agreement should and most likely does include information about your rights to use the brand, how the various brand elements are to be used, your responsibility to follow the proscribed brand standards, and any penalties for not following those standards. But that is simply one part of the franchise agreement.


Does the word “inevitably” really need to be there? And are you really testing your mettle by asking a franchisor if it’s time to consider revising the agreement? I don’t have enough information to answer these questions, so I have to assume the writer knows what he’s talking about. But because of these other errors, his credibility is questionable, and is why I think those questions even arose. If the writing were clear and error-free, I wouldn’t have reason to question the accuracy of the information contained within it.

But it isn’t. So I do.

I consider this final point to be proof enough of why clarity in communications is essential. A writer can ignore as many grammar and syntactical conventions as they like, and their meaning many still come through. But by not taking care to be clear, and to use the correct words in the correct fashion, they call into question their own credibility, and the truth of their message.

A note to marketers

Dear Marketers,

It’s “calls-to-action,” not “call-to-actions.”

Have a great summer!


Here’s a particularly bad site. I wouldn’t trust this company to do anything for me:


Not only are they saying “call to actions” all over the place, they aren’t hyphenating any compound adjectives, and they insist on using an apostrophe with “CTAs.” And then there are the awful, key-command faux ellipses at the bottom of the page.

They might as well be wearing white after Labor Day.

10 secrets to writing a headline

This is a bad image, but it’s also bad copy, so no big deal. Screen Shot 2014-02-03 at 10.18.03 AM

It’s a screen shot of a LinkedIn post from a contributor whose material I usually enjoy reading. But this post has all kinds of wrong going on, the most egregious error being the headline. (In fact, it’s so far removed what this author normally posts that I’m willing to bet it was created by a different writer.)

Let’s forget for a moment that “10 Secrets to Control Your Boss” is ultra-cheesy, and concentrate on the fact that it makes no sense. Acceptable alternative headlines that would make sense include:

  • “10 Secrets to Controlling Your Boss”
  • “10 Ways to Control Your Boss”
  • “10 Tips for Controlling Your Boss”

And while “10 Secrets That Can Help You Control Your Boss” is horribly clumsy, at least it makes sense, and doesn’t lead you to think you’re about to read an article dispensing tips on hypnosis.

(The article itself isn’t about controlling your boss. It’s about how to get your boss to like you. So the best headline by far — sticking with the “X secrets” format — would be: “10 Easy Ways to Impress Your Boss.”)

I can’t just ignore the first sentence of the lead-in.

“I am a HUG FAN of controlling your BOSS!”

Aside from the typo, eye-roll-inducing use of caps and unnecessary exclamation point, what I really want to know is how does the author know my boss, and why is she such a fan of controlling her?

Fingernails on a chalkboard

Photo of Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong

Even Billie seems bothered by the sound of his own screeching.

I totally get the expression, and have used it as far back as I can remember to describe extreme personal irritants. But the actual sound of fingernails on a chalkboard has never bothered me. Not anywhere close to the way, say, Billie Joe Armstrong’s voice will cause me to scream and start pounding on radio buttons in a desperate attempt to MAKE IT STOP.

Worse than that, even — for me — is bad grammar. I don’t expect (or want) people to walk around speaking like Queen Elizabeth I. When I say “bad grammar,” I mean really horrific grammar.

Speaker 1 — “Why has the use of improper grammar become so prevalent among members of the news media?”
Speaker 2 — “The reason is because . . .”


There are multiple acceptable ways to answer this question. Options include:

  • “The reason is . . .”
  • “The use of improper grammar has become so prevalent among members of the news media because . . .” or the more conversationally acceptable,
  • “Because . . .”

“The reason is” and “because” shouldn’t appear together in an answer, ever, to any question.